Classroom Organization

This week’s #SundayFunday challenge is “Organization.” I definitely like to think of myself as an organized person. With 5 preps sometimes I feel like there are a thousand things happening at once, so I have to have a system or I go crazy.

Here are a few ways I try to keep my classroom organized.

  • Folders for each student. I keep each student’s signed syllabus, quizzes, and tests on file for easy reference. It’s nice for keeping track of retakes and parent-teacher conferences. I have a folder for each student in my file cabinet.
  • Group tubs. I have a tub for each group of desks in my room with scissors, compasses, glue, etc. This is especially handy for geometry instead of having to pass out supplies all the time.
  • Paper organizer. Keeping track of copied things is the bane of my existence. I will inevitably pick them up and lay them down somewhere random and lose them forever. This hanging file organizer helps me out there – one pocket for each hour.img_00531.jpg
  • End of day checklist. I am a list person. For some reason I also do much better with printed lists than digital ones. I’ve got a list that I keep in a sheet protector and add to or check off with a dry erase marker throughout the day. It’s got activities that I do every day on it and room to add new ones.End_of_Day_Checklist_numbers.jpg
  • Whiteboard calendar. Pretty self-explanatory. This helps me keep track of what I’m doing each hour. I write in different colored markers for tests, activities, etc.IMG_0029.JPG
  • Schoology. We’re a 1:1 school, so Schoology helps me keep organize materials digitally to share with students. I really like it.
  • Retake forms. I use Google forms for students to set up test and quiz retakes. I have an add-on set up that emails me when a form has been submitted.

I’m less skilled at keeping my digital ideas organized, but I do use a few tools that I would recommend.

  • Dropbox. Great for keeping files synced between home and school.
  • Pinterest. I try to keep my new activity ideas here. The internet is a black hole of things that I find and then can never find again, so I try to pin them when possible.

That’s about all that I can think of at the moment!




Classroom Management

I’m trying to get back into blogging with the #SundayFunday challenge. This week’s topic is classroom management. I always feel like this is something I should be better at after six years, but I’m still learning and looking back on situations wishing I’d handled them differently. I’m in the privileged position of teaching mostly upper-level classes with motivated students, but they’re still kids who would sometimes rather do other things besides math.

Here are my three main strategies – mostly prevention. They’re nothing groundbreaking, but they’re key for me.

Build relationships. Get to know your students and let them get to know you too. Many of my students have me as a teacher three or four years in a row, so I have an advantage here. I have students fill out an information sheet about themselves on the first day every year, and I share about myself as well. Go to sporting events, the art show, etc.; show them that you care about them outside of math. Realize that if they have a bad day, they probably have a reason for acting the way they do. If I have a bad day or mess up, I try to acknowledge it. Students need to know I screw up too. I also resort to bribery and bake my classes cookies if they get an ‘A’ average on a test. Feeding them always helps. 🙂

Have procedures and be super-organized. Get your class trained in the basic routine and expectations from day one. One plus of being required to go over the syllabus on the 1st day is that we get a lot of this out the way right away. My students quickly learn what to do if they need to go the bathroom, where to download materials, where to find assignments, etc. Once we get the routine down – walk in the door, read the board, pull up your assignment, work out the warm-up on it, check HW, new lesson – things run pretty smoothly.

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Keep ’em engaged! We do math all hour, almost every day. THERE IS NO FREE TIME!  Having an engaging lesson helps, but sometimes I struggle to math things like rational functions “fun.” So I crack lots of cheesy jokes and probably use far too much sarcasm. When I ask questions I call on random students, and “I don’t know” isn’t a valid answer. They can get a hint or help from a friend, but not opt-out. I try to mix up lecture with lots of cooperative practice strategies to get them talking to one another. I do lots of visibly random grouping for practice tasks. I’m always walking around the room during practice time asking questions and checking in. I also love projects and try to incorporate one per unit.

Since I just made this handy list for our new MS math teacher, here are some of my favorite activities (that I’ve mostly borrowed from the MTBoS):

First Day Plans 2017-2018

It’s one week until school starts! About time to get back to blogging… I’ve got my classroom ready to go and my first day somewhat figured out. We’re required to go over the syllabus, expectations, and student handbook on day one, so it’s unfortunately not the most exciting day ever.

Here’s the run-down:

  • Greet students at the door
  • Students come in and look at the seating chart/directions on the board to find their seat
  • They pick up a textbook (if their class has one) and sit down
  • I’ll give a little “about me” talk – this won’t take too long since almost all of my students have had me as a teacher before (some of them for 4 years in a row)
  • We’ll go through syllabus and all the boring stuff
  • We’ll do Sara’s 100 Numbers Task. I’ve got mine printed off and put in sheet protectors so I can reuse from hour to hour.
  • Students will get set up on Schoology and fill out my student information form for homework.
  • If we have time, we’ll play some SET.

That should pretty much cover day one!

Week 35: Feels Like Summer

I had a couple of busy weeks and Spring Break, so I missed a couple weeks of posts. I’m back this week, although not with anything too exciting to share.

A few things that have happened since I last posted:

  • Campus Bowl season is wrapped up and over with. Senior Night was a blast with a Seniors vs. Teacher match (teachers won!) that I definitely want to do again in the future. The end of the season always is a relief (free time, what!?) and sad because I don’t want it to be over.
  • Spring Break was great. I spent it reading, relaxing, and visiting with family members that I don’t get to see that often.
  • The insanity that is state testing is about to begin. ACT for all juniors next week and then EOCs the following week (not to mention Prom + more track meets). Fun!

It’s at this point in the year that I’m always strangely more motivated to think about things to do over the summer for next year than for wrapping up the end of this year. So here are a few goals I’ve made so far.

Things to KEEP doing:

  • Warm up schedule
  • Reflecting/adding notes to my plan book at the end of each day
  • Posting on Twitter

Things that MUST be done:

  • Combine notes for ALL classes into one file per unit
  • Add “on your own” problems to ALL classes
  • Write cumulative review worksheets for Calculus after quizzes
  • Do a more thorough job teaching inverse trig functions in Trig/Calc

Things to IMPROVE:

  • Incorporate more activities (this goal will never go away – but I’m making progress!)
  • Praising student work & celebrating individual successes
  • More concept/critical thinking questions on assessments (give an answer and have students explain how to get it?)

That’s it for now.!

Week 32: Not My Best

Sometimes you look back on a week and think about how well things went, and sometimes, not so much. From a content standpoint, it was fine, but I was frustrated and short-tempered. Absences are the bane of my existence right now. Kids who go to every possible extracurricular activity but then don’t ask for help or download the notes I post or do their make-up assignments make me crazy. I need to practice taking some deep breaths…

But we did have some good activities this week. We did a Question Stack in Algebra 2 with rational expressions that was great practice. I stole the idea and majority of the questions from @mathequalslove, but the gist is that you print the cards two-sided, then:

  • Place cards “Answer” side up
  • Flip over one card to “Question” side and work it out
  • Find the answer on another card, flip it over, and stack it on top of the original
  • Repeat until out of cards, the last answer should be the bottom of the 1st card

We also did a Desmos Activity for area between two curves in Calculus, and some QR Code practice over surface area in Geometry. Here’s to a smoother week next week!

Week 31: Rational Expressions… Sigh…

It was a week of tough topics all around — integration by substitution, logarithms, confidence intervals, & my least favorite, rational expressions in Algebra 2. With kids gone Tues. – Thurs. for various trips and activities two weeks in a row, it’s horrible timing.

I think I actually did a decent (well, better) job teaching addition and subtraction this year.  I tried a chart for organizing factors and finding the least common denominator, which helped. Plus lots of color coding.Cursor_and_lesson2day1_pdf__page_3_of_3_.jpg

However, the absences are killing us. Monday will hopefully be an intervention and practice day. I have a row game and question stack (via @mathequalslove) for us work through.
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On the plus side, I enjoyed a personal day on Friday for some much-needed time away from school. I feel less short-tempered and stressed. Also, my Campus Bowl team took 1st place at the tournament we competed in yesterday! Yay!


Week 30: Complete Insanity

What a week! It had ups, downs, exhaustion, frustration, and boredom. I had three Campus Bowl games, along with two nights of parent-teacher conferences. That means I had four days in a row of 12+ hours at school. I was kind of a mess by the end of the day on Thursday. Thank goodness we had Friday off before the conference tournament yesterday (in which we placed 2nd – yay!).

It was Pi Day on Tuesday, which means I got to enjoy lots of food this week and talk about math history a bit.

There was also a lot of review, quizzes, and tests. I had my Geometry kids work through some stations to practice before their test. I digitized everything this year, and added Quizlet and Desmos Card Sort stations as well. It would have been great, and was for about 15 minutes before they got called out to go over ASVAB test results… Oh, well…

My favorite part of the week was the conference Campus Bowl Tournament yesterday. We had a really close game that we tied by getting two math questions right, and then won in overtime. We played for the conference championship in the next game, but came up short. It was close, and I’m still really happy with 2nd. Three of my players made the All-Conference Team as well. It was a pretty great day. No matter how insane it makes my life in March, I love coaching.